Paragon Finance Plc (Formerly Known As National Home Loans Corporation Plc); etc v Freshfields (a Firm): CA 11 Mar 1999

A client who sues his former solicitor, waives his legal privilege protection, as regards that legal relationship, but that does not require a waiver also, of other privilege with later solicitors instructed in related matters. Lord Bingham LCJ said: ‘A client expressly waives his legal privilege when he elects to disclose communications which the privilege would entitle him not to disclose. Where the disclosure is partial, issues may arise on the scope of the waiver . . While there is no rule that a party who waives privilege in relation to one communication is taken to waive privilege in relation to all, a party may not waive privilege in such a partial and selective manner that unfairness or misunderstanding may result.’
. . and ‘When a client sues a solicitor who has formerly acted for him, complaining that the solicitor has acted negligently, he invites the court to adjudicate on questions directly arising from the confidential relationship which formerly subsisted between them. Since court proceedings are public, the client brings that formerly confidential relationship into the public domain. He thereby waives any right to claim the protection of legal professional privilege in relation to any communication between them so far as necessary for the just determination of his claim; or, putting the same proposition in different terms, he releases the solicitor to that extent from the obligation of confidence by which he was formerly bound. This is an implication of law, the rationale of which is plain. A party cannot deliberately subject a relationship to public scrutiny and at the same time seek to preserve its confidentiality. He cannot pick and choose, disclosing such incidents of the relationship as strengthen his claim for damages and concealing from forensic scrutiny such incidents as weaken it. He cannot attack his former solicitor and deny the solicitor the use of materials relevant to his defence. But, since the implied waiver applies to communications between client and solicitor, it will cover no communication to which the solicitor was not privy and so will disclose to the solicitor nothing of which he is not already aware.’
As to Hayes v Dowding, he said: ‘We need not linger on Hayes v. Dowding [1996] PNLR 578, a case in which the plaintiffs were held to have impliedly waived their right to legal professional privilege by bringing proceedings even though the proceedings were not against any legal adviser. In reaching that conclusion the judge relied heavily on Australian and United States authority. Neither party before us sought to contend that this case was correctly decided, and we are satisfied that it was not. The authorities on which the judge principally relied do not represent the law of this country, and the decision must be overruled.’
Lord Bingham LCJ
Times 22-Mar-1999, Gazette 19-May-1999, [1999] EWCA Civ 955, [1999] 1 WLR 1183, [2000] CP Rep 81
England and Wales
CitedHayes v Dowding 1996
Disputes over the running of a private company had been compromised by the plaintiffs’ solicitors. The plaintiffs sought to upset the compromise on the basis that they had been induced by a misrepresentation. The Defendants sought disclosure of . .
CitedX Corporation v Y 16-May-1997
Legal professional privilege might be taken to be waived if it would be unfair to allow a client to maintain it. . .

Cited by:
CitedBritish American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd v United States of America CA 30-Jul-2004
The claimant appealed an order for its London solicitor to be examined in connection with proceedings in the US.
Held: A court should not make an order which was superfluous. The witness had now given his evidence. However, the foreign . .
CitedFulham Leisure Holdings Ltd v Nicholson Graham and Jones ChD 14-Feb-2006
The defendant solicitors were being sued for professional negligence. The claimants had taken legal advice after termination of the retainer which led to the present action, and sought to rely upon part of counsel’s opinion. The defendants sought . .
CitedFarm Assist Ltd v Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs TCC 12-Dec-2008
The claimant, now in liquidation, sought to have set aside for economic duress the mediated settlement of its dispute with the defendant. The defendant sought disclosure of legal and similar advice given to the claimant.
Held: Paragon Finance . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 May 2021; Ref: scu.145870